Exhibiting Historical Art: Out of the Vault: Stories of People and Things

Head of John the Baptist

This carved wooden piece made to look like bronze exemplifies the Spanish Baroque. Spanish Baroque sculpture is particularly identified with its religious themes. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, conflicts between the Catholic Church and the newly formed Protestants had a tremendous impact on art, especially in heavily Catholic Spain. Saints and other religious figures were popular subjects, in order to reinforce the values of the Sacraments. This period is also identified by its realism: faces and objects were now depicted with correct dimensions and proportions. This realism was often combined with highly theatrical components, such as extreme facial expressions, to create exceptionally powerful and emotional works of art.

Juan Alonzo y Ron Villabrille worked most of his life in Madrid, setting up his own workshop in 1687. He is known for his wooden and porcelain sculptures depicting Saints and other religious subjects. His most famous work, the Head of St Paul, is also his only signed and dated sculpture. The rest of Villabrille’s sculptures, including this one, are accredited to him solely based off his artistic style, especially the carved swirls of the beard and extremely dramatic expressions. By creating a Saint in anguish, Villabrille is able to remind his viewers of the sacrifices Catholics had made in order to practice their beliefs. 

Lauren Linquest, '19

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